Clouds Over the Sunshine State

Terry Jones is an exemplary Florida citizen

April 2 has often been a momentous day in our nation’s history. In addition to being the birthday of this writer’s mother, it is the date on which Juan Ponce de León waded ashore to set foot on the exotic land of Florida (“Lo,” he is said to have exclaimed. “What a land. There is a power scooter store on every corner!”). And so it is fitting that it was on April 2, 2011, the 498th anniversary of the day Ponce took his skills to South Beach, that I came to the conclusion that it is high time we cut Florida loose.

One would expect that a region with palm trees waving in the breeze, spectacular sunsets, and such a high ratio of oranges to people would be relatively tranquil. But, like the line of thinking supporting Donald Trump for president, this is simply wrong.

Former governor Charles J. “Charlie” Crist pursued a pardon for singer Jim Morrison, who is, in fact, dead as a Doornail. Florida handed George W. Bush the presidency after Albert A. “Al” Gore ‘69 won the popular vote but guessed wrong in Final Jeopardy. Orlando’s most famous resident is a giant mouse who inexplicably wears pants. And its second most famous resident is Tiger Woods, another rodent who became infamous for all-too-frequently not wearing pants.

But the real man of the hour is Terry “You Thought Charlie Sheen Was The Biggest Loose Cannon Around?” Jones. For those of you whose minds have not been liquefied by listening to “Friday” on repeat, you might remember back to September when Mr. Jones, a Gainesville preacher, threatened to burn a stack of Korans on Sept. 11. After being called by U.S. Secretary of Defense Robert M. Gates, who politely offered to test the U.S.’s nuclear arsenal in Jones’ pews, Jones backed down and crawled back into obscurity. But his thirst for public demonstrations of intolerance apparently could not be quenched, and on March 20, he oversaw the burning of a Koran. This prompted the April 1 killing of 12 United Nations workers in Afghanistan and several more in subsequent days of anti-US protests.

After the initial shock and anger, you might have been surprised to learn that Jones had gone ahead with a book burning. It turns out that unlike in September, when the US media made him the center of a global firestorm, the press seems to have wised up and refused to give him the coverage that he so plainly does not deserve. Our journalists ought to be commended for deliberately ignoring his attention-seeking behavior. Or maybe they were just too busy covering Lindsay Lohan’s views on the situation in Libya.

But now that Jones has gone ahead with his hate-mongering that has caused the death of innocent people, it is time we all faced some hard facts. This Florida stuff is never going to stop. There’s something in the water down there that should make old Ponce de León very happy that he never found the fountain he was looking for. In fact, aside from Carrot Top, nothing good has ever come out of Florida. Richard L. “Rick” Scott, tea-partying governor who has proposed slashing the state’s education budget by nearly $700 per student? Florida. Leighton Meester, homicidal roommate magnet? Florida. Vanilla Ice, inspiration for the original Starbucks drink order? Florida.

So Ponce, I know you meant well, but 498 years is enough to show that this is not just a phase Florida is going through. Perhaps we can get Rand Paul on board by proposing to jettison Florida as a way to shrink the government and get rid of its budget deficit. If that is too radical, or if we just don’t want to have to buy new 49-star flags, we can swap Florida for Guam, where nothing bad ever happens (okay, where nothing ever happens, but that would be a huge step in the right direction). But however we do it, let’s do what we can to make next April 2 the day we celebrate the departure of Florida from our union. And until then, let’s all use April 2 as an occasion to remind me to call my mother, because she just threatened to move to Miami if I ever forget her birthday again.

Brett A. Rosenberg ’12, a history concentrator, lives in Cabot House.

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